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Why Kitty Hawk?

Wilbur and Orville now proposed to build a full-size, man-carrying glider on which to test their method of control. Highly enthusiastic with the idea of gliding as a sport, they started thinking of a place for testing it. To get practice in operating the glider, they would first fly it as a kite before making gliding flights. For kite flying, steady winds and flat, open country were needed; for the gliding, a sandy area for soft landings and sandhill slopes free of trees and shrubs for low-level flights. The Wrights' hometown of Dayton and its environs were not suitable for extensive glider trials. But because of their business demands, they wanted a site fairly close at hand.

On May 13, 1900, Wilbur wrote his first letter to Chanute asking advice on a suitable location to test a glider. In this letter to the man who became their friend, mentor, and most important correspondent, Wilbur stated:

For some years I have been afflicted with the belief that flight is possible to man. My disease has increased in severity and I feel that it will soon cost me an increased amount of money if not my life. . . . It is possible to fly without motors, but not without knowledge & skill. This I conceive to be fortunate, for man, by reason of his greater intellect, can more reasonably hope to equal birds in knowledge, than to equal nature in the perfection of her machinery.

The brothers decided to test their glider at Kitty Hawk after a study of Weather Bureau records and the receipt of this letter.

Chanute suggested beach locations for glider tests in California, Florida, Georgia, or South Carolina. But after a study of wind records obtained from the Weather Bureau at Washington, the Wrights decided that Kitty Hawk, N.C., seemed to meet their requirements better than any other place within that distance from their home. To confirm this, they wrote to Kitty Hawk, and the replies from Joseph J. Dosher and William J. Tate convinced the brothers that Kitty Hawk was the ideal place for their experiments. They decided to go there as soon as they could build their glider and their bicycle business permitted.


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